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On moving internationally

posted in personal stuff on January 11th, 2008

A few days ago, a friend of mine asked me if I ever regretted moving from Austria to the Netherlands and basically leaving everything behind – the short answer? No. You will want to read on if you are interested in the long answer.

First, let me preface this entry by explaining a few things: I moved to the Netherlands in the summer of 2002 – it was more or less a spontaneous decision after having been there only once (and enjoying it) a couple of months earlier.

Normally, with big decisions, I tend to consider all the advantages and disadvantages, I weigh my various options and try to look at the big picture and disregard all small details that are not important for the overall decision.

Not this time though, when my parents first approached me in the fall of 2001 about moving internationally, I was reluctant, I knew little about the country or its customs, I did not speak one word of the language and, childish as it may seem, the one thing I could think of first – broadband Internet was not going to be available for at least a year at the very address I would be living at.

All in all, quite a hand full of reasons to tip the decision in favor of simply staying in Austria, but as always, there were also a few reason that would be able to, at least, balance the whole thing out:

First of all, Austria still has a conscript army where you are supposed to spend (waste?) ten to twelve months at, while getting paid little and seeing all your (female) friends move on to their sophomore year because they are not required to join the service.

Now, I will not say that I am a pacifist, but I do not see the point of me shooting vintage rifles, throwing hand grenades and crawling through mud all day long. Yes, it’s free physical education, paid for by the man and certainly a great way to condition yourself both physically and mentally, but at which cost? Being harassed days on end because you did not complete an obstacle course in the required time? No, thank you. I will just go to a gym and pay for it myself.

That and of course the fact that many drill instructors have enjoyed a lower education than me and still behave like they fought in both Wars and helped tip them in “our” favor. I do not have a problem with authority, I realize that there is a definite need for leaders and followers, but some things simply do not work for me.

I am not much of a patriot, I realize that, but then again I never claimed that I was one. I see citizenship as a, I guess the right word would be, attribute, that can benefit someone (or not) and I would like to think that by paying taxes and behaving like every good citizen should, that I have done a lot for my country.

There are others that are more willing to join a service and sacrifice themselves for their country, but I am not one of them. I do, however, have an insane amount of respect for every soldier that actually fought in a war and had to take another person’s life to protect the very country I am in.

Apart from the army issue, there was also the longing for change. I always wanted to spend a year abroad, just pick up a new language on the go and experience another country by immersing myself into their culture and therefore making it, at least partially, my own.

The Netherlands provided me with all that – a good education, a new country and a new language and best of all: no army I would be required to join after high school.

Obvious advantages aside, the Netherlands also were host to a number of other things that would be important for me later on, after high school – such as a good higher education that focused on new media. Yes, there are colleges and universities like that in Austria, but they do not have the same national status as the college I am studying in right now and prestige, somehow, still matters to me.

Back to the future, it has been five and a half years since I have moved here. As always, there have been the good times, the bad times and then there have been the great times: in the past two years I have personally met some of the people I admire, such as Kevin Kelly and Dick Hardt, I have talked to people that made millions on the web and lost them in the blink of a second. I have talked to some of the most influential people of the Dutch media scene and I had (and have) the pleasure of working with some of them.

I have given speeches in front of huge audiences on topics I care about and even though both cases were rather ad-hoc, I like to think that I did perform quite well.

The Netherlands, for me, were and are a catalyst of sorts: after moving here I acquired new clients, nay friends that taught me a great deal about going about business. I have met generous people that helped me by sharing experiences and interesting information with me and I have worked with people that showed me the works and I am thankful for that, because I believe that I would not be who I am today were it not for their intervention.

Business things aside, there is one issue that keeps coming up, an item that many people cannot and will not disregard as lightly as I did: friends.

When moving internationally, you are basically sacrificing friendships; sure – there are trains and planes and cars and you could visit them (or they could visit you) every now and again, but one way or another, the friendship is going to change.

Well, let me say this: real friendship transcends borders. There are a few people in Austria I still have contact with and those are people I consider true friends. Not only because we shared many things in common back “then”, but also because we still have regular contact and try to keep the other in the loop, which is good enough for me.
I have not been to Austria in more than five years now and every time people ask me when I will be going back, I have to give them the same answer: I do not know if that will happen any time soon, maybe not ever at all.

In closing, let me state that if someone were to ask me what the best decision was that I made in the last decade, I can say, with absolute certainty, it would be moving to the Netherlands and I do not regret it at all.

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Ghosts from the past

posted in College on September 6th, 2007

I went on a little road trip today (well, train trip really) to our capital to deliver a very special package to some people I know and when I came back, I met an old teacher / mentor from my high school and we got into a talk about the past, the present and the future.

Occasionally, it can be really interesting to meet people from the past, especially if those people expressed their doubts (albeit in a very subtle way) about your future before… this time around however, the cards were stacked in my favor.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not cranky or mad or anything about the behavior of (most of) my former high school teachers, but I find the way the situation has changed kind of amusing.

When I left high school, I set out into an uncertain future, or that’s what most of my teachers (wanted to?) believe(ed).

I was never really the poster student, nor did I try to be. I have this knack when it comes to learning: I generally only devote my attention to the things that really bother me and my old teacher confirmed that today, stating that I was “hard to reach” sometimes and teachers had a hard time “getting through to me”.

Funnily enough, the day I started my college career, all those things seemed to have vanished. So far, I have had more than 70 different classes and to be honest, I found something that interested me in every single one of them.

Yes, some classes managed to pique my interest a lot more than others, but all in all, I did not have but one subject with which I was unhappy with.

In the end, this probably comes down to the fact that I made a great decision when it comes to college and had the luck of finding a place that teaches just about everything that I am interested in, but still, it is funny how things work out sometimes…

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The things that keep you coming back

posted in Marketing on August 7th, 2007

In today’s (commercial) world, everyone seems to be focused on one thing and one thing only: money. Many companies forget that without customers, they would not be where they are right now and yet, some companies still believe they can treat their customers the way they want.

Normally, this kind of post would turn into a rant, but I think it is important to point out those companies that actually care about their customers and will do (just about) everything to keep you coming back:

First up is QH Networks. I came across them while looking for some professional help on getting a new Operating System installed on my server. Since I value my data and like to be kept in the loop, I bombarded one of their employees with a myriad of questions during the whole project. I had special requirements and special circumstances, yet they did not give up on me and move on to the next, probably more profitable client. By doing so, they earned my respect and I will most certainly come back when I am in need of their services again.

Next stop is Proporta.com. I initially came across them in 2003, while looking for some accessories for my Pocket PC and while I am not ordering from them every other week, they are always the first site that I check. The reason for that is simple: their employees are very responsive and in the rare case that your order cannot be shipped out the same day, they will try to, and actually do, their level best to keep you happy as a customer. It is not so much the reparations they are willing to make but their concern for you as a customer. Granted, said concern is probably based on the fact that they want to keep you as a customer, but still, they care, while others do not. And besides that, Proporta.com includes a selection of English Breakfast Tea with every order, a small gesture, yes, but one I like a lot.

Both of these companies work harder to keep you as a customer than most other companies you will ever come across. It may be related to their respective area of operations, which are more niche than your ordinary brick and mortar store or it may be related to the fact that their employees actually give a damn. Either way, it works out very nicely for the consumer.

decisions, decisions, decisions

posted in College, personal stuff on September 23rd, 2006

Human life, probably like all life on Earth, is tainted by decisions.

There are the important ones like the ones that influence your life, the semi-important ones and the unimportant ones. Naturally, everyone regards various decisions differently. What qualifies as a high priority item for one, is of no importance at all to another.

Right now, I’m facing quite a few important and semi-important issues and some input would be appreciated:

I’ve been offered a job from a person I’ve known for about a year now, while the agreement I signed prohibits me from going into specifics, I can at least tell that it is rather techy. It involves lots of coding, probably some out-sourcing and most certainly lots of learning. The company I’d be representing has a killer concept and from what I’ve heard it would most certainly be something I’d love to do. The question is, am I able to do it.

I know my own skills and I (think I) know what they want. Do I think that I have what it takes? No, not right now anyway. Maybe a few months from now, after I’ve gained enough knowledge, I’d be a more suitable candidate. Granted, they, too, know what my skills are and they still asked me, so probably they are more convinced of my skills than I am, which is nice. It’s still a decision I’ve got to make though. The salary would be great, but with great money comes great(er) responsibility. The only peeve, so to speak is that it’s really technical and my goal for the next three years was actually to further develop my artistic skills. Naturally, code (and thus coding too) is poetry and poetry is art, but it’s not really the kind of art I was thinking about.

As part of my interview with the company, I had to write up a dossier of technologies and solutions I’d recommend (and sometimes be able to implement) for the concept they’ve planned out. I think, I did a fairly thorough job, only including the stuff I considered essential and stripping away marketing spiel no one cares about anyway.

We’ll see how this pans out and if it remains a decision I have to make or if it will be made for me.

Another decision I’m facing right now is as to what I should further specialize in … the options I have are audio / video editing or 3D design. If I look at it from a possible income perspective, I’m quite certain that 3D design is the best choice of the three, however, being the math-tard I am, I might have to struggle too long with the tools needed to get the job done.

A/V editing on the other hand is something I’ve been interested for quite some time. I started a machinima movie in the summer which I’m editing, cutting, producing and it’s fun to work with the tools. You get instant results, it’s straight forward and interesting. It also links up nicely with the stuff I’ve been doing for Scott so far.

As should be obvious from the two last paragraphs, I’m kinda partial to A/V editing, not only because it’s something I’ve already done, but also because it’s something which I can translate into marketable skills in the near future. Yes, I’m like that - on the other hand, it’s also something I’d love to do in the future. Not full-time, but certainly every now and then, even if it’s just for homevideos that leave the viewers gaping…

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